USAF Looks to Fill Gap in Weather Satellite Coverage

The Air Force is considering striking a deal with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that would allow it to assume control of a spare weather satellite to fill a gap in coverage over the Indian Ocean, reported Space News. If the deal goes through, the 14th Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite would become the first Defense Department geostationary weather satellite, said Ralph Stoffler, USAF director of weather, at the 97th annual meeting of American Meteorological Society in Seattle. Stoffler said coverage in that region has been challenging for the service, which typically relies on non-US satellites, such Europe’s Eumetsat’s Meteosat-7 satellite, which is scheduled to retire this year, according to the paper. Eumetsat did reposition another Meteosat satellite over the region last summer, but that only provided partial coverage. The service also is considering trying to access Indian weather satellite images. “That would probably the more cost-effective solution,” said Stoffler. “But to have a US-owned and controlled satellite in that part of the world, certainly from my perspective, is ideal.” If USAF assumes control of the satellite, it would have to pay to set up a downlink station in the region, but it would not have to pay NOAA to access the satellite, according to Space News. A NOAA spokesperson told Space News that, “No implementation agreements have yet been made,” and that the agency would “look at the health of the constellation” and begin negotiations with USAF once GOES-16, which is currently undergoing checkout, becomes operational later this year.